Reclaim Your Surroundings

T his fantabulous blog about The Invisibles just completely reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to post about for weeks now.

One of Agent Causation’s last paragraphs reads: “Make your town seem strange again. Rename the streets and buildings. Reclaim your world and your reality.”

This is precisely what John Stilgoe writes about in Outside Lies Magic. I’m going to come clean right now and say that I own this book and haven’t read it all. But the first chapter changed my life.  He writes about looking at your world as if you hadn’t seen it before–as if you’re a tourist from another planet. Wonder at the infrastructure–the power lines, the water towers, the electrical boxes. A powerful force called electricity comes into your house from outside, from miles and miles of cords. It’s crazy once you think about it for the first time again.

Once I started taking fascination in the world around me, I couldn’t believe how intricate the railroad crossing sign and bell outside my apartment was. I followed power lines with my eyes for blocks. I knocked on the door of a generator box at a park. And I realized that industrial landscapes are some of the most beautiful places in the world.

You think I’m crazy, right?  These filthy places? No one wants to live by this. I’m not saying live in this landscape. I’m saying pay attention to it. This is not about property values.  It’s about imagination. Nothing gives imagination more fodder than the places around us.

I write a lot about how places effect our minds and emotions. The shape of a place will determine your lifestyle. But you have just as much affect on what you see and hear outside your house. The mind is a powerful thing!

I recommend Outside Lies Magic and I recommend walking, biking, or driving down a street in your city that you’ve never seen before.